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No merger: BC Conservatives rejected non-competition deal, BC United says

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BC Conservatives have rejected a non-competition deal proposed by BC United, the party formerly known as the BC Liberals says, putting an end to talks about a possible merge between the two parties.

BC United Leader Kevin Falcon issued a statement Friday morning, saying two meetings were held to discuss the possibility of co-operation between the parties.

"Over the course of these talks, our only objective was to minimize the risk of vote splitting by prioritizing the good of the province over any personal or political interests," Falcon said. "I appreciate the genuine good faith displayed by the BC Conservative officials who worked with us toward our common goal of acting in the best interests of British Columbia."

The first meeting was held on May 2, at which a "mutual interest in exploring common ground" was confirmed. A second meeting was held on May 22 with two representatives from each party.

"Despite the common ground achieved during these meetings, last night John Rustad decided to reject a reasonable offer aimed at preventing a vote split, risking another four years of (Premier David Eby)'s NDP government that will further jeopardize the well-being of this province," Falcon said. "In doing so, John Rustad placed his own ambition above the best interests of British Columbia."

In his own statement, Rustad said he could "say with certainty" there would not be a merger between the two parties. Rustad said the BC Conservatives reached out to BC United last year about the possibility of the two parties joining.

"Kevin Falcon declined our offers in December 2023 to discuss a possible merger – with a single message stating, and I quote, 'F#ck Off,'" Rustad's statement said. "In February, we tried again and BC United stated they'd be interested in speaking but Kevin Falcon would 'dictate' the terms."

Rustad said Falcon repeatedly "demonstrated that he will always put himself first and will do absolutely anything for power."

Meanwhile, Falcon said his party "did everything possible to secure" an agreement.

No merger in proposed deal

Falcon said the deal was a "non-competition framework," and would not include a merger of the parties, but could have led to a coalition government.

Instead, the deal would have seen the parties agreeing not to attack one another during the campaign, and not running candidates against each other's MLAs who are running for re-election. That includes two BC Conservative seats and 15 BC United seats.

The deal also proposed allowing the BC Conservatives to run 47 seats and BC United to run 46, as BC United has more incumbents.

The seats would have been divided between the parties in a "draft format," Falcon explained. If the total number of seats won by BC United and BC Conservatives exceeded the NDP, the parties would form a coalition government, with the premier being the party leader that won more seats.

According to Rustad, Falcon expressed he didn't want this negotiation made public.

"Falcon is clearly irrational and unreasonable and prepared to lie. This makes it impossible to trust anything he says," Rustad claimed. 

Former premier weighs in

Meanwhile, the BC NDP were well aware they stood to gain from potential vote-splitting amid the sudden bickering between their opponents, and couldn’t resist taking a shot at the opposition parties.

“They’re squabbling over back room deals – not even paying attention to what British Columbians care about,” said BC NDP House Leader Ravi Kahlon.

Former BC Liberal premier Christy Clark is among the established right that is concerned and urging the two leaders to reconsider a deal.

“I’m so disappointed about where this seems to be going,” said Clark Friday. “I don’t think either one of them is taking a wise risk. If they don’t come together, neither one of them can win,” she said.

When asked Friday whether she’d be willing to get involved in brokering a deal, Clark told CTV News she would be happy to help.

“I’m here and ready to do whatever I can do to help,” said Clark. “If I could help craft something that might work or if I could find a way to work around the edges – I’m happy to do it. This is so important for our province.”

Clark added she would do “whatever anybody asked,” while noting any chance of resurrecting talks of a deal would need to be led by the parties’ leaders.

“They’re the ones that have to do the deal – deals are made face-to-face in almost every case,” Clark said. 

BC Conservatives ahead in polls

According to a Research Co. poll released earlier this week, 32 per cent of voters say they would cast a ballot for the BC Conservatives. Meanwhile, just 12 per cent would vote for BC United. Forty-two per cent said they would support the NDP candidate in their riding. 

BC United is seeing the lowest support level they've had since forming as the BC Liberals.

"(It's) certainly not the situation people expected a year ago," Mario Canseco, president of Research Co., told CTV Morning Live earlier this week. "The name change didn't work as well as they expected. I think there was an expectation that if they rebranded, they were going to be able to compete for the government. Now they're competing for third place with the Greens, so clearly something went wrong."

But Canseco said a merger between the two parties would have been "complicated from a logistical standpoint."

"You have candidates nominated in ridings already, so what are you going to do?" he said.

Results of Research Co.'s poll are based on an online survey conducted between May 13 and May 15 among 800 adults in B.C. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region in British Columbia. The margin of error—which measures sample variability—is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. 

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